MarketLive Launches “Commerce as a Service”: Some thoughts


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By Brian K. Walker

MarketLive, an early player in the hosted/managed eCommerce
platform solution market has had a rocky couple of years. There have been
issues with an upgrade of existing clients from earlier product versions,
management turn-over, and some poor business results to boot. We reviewed the product as a part of our B2C
eCommerce Platform Wave
report and found that it is a solid mid-market offering
with some notable gaps in the enterprise space. However, MarketLive has had a
significant capital injection, has reinvigorated with seasoned leadership with
eCommerce, technology, and services chops and now has a new product offering which
was announced yesterday– version 5.6.

 

What’s new:

  • With v5.6 the product is now a multi-tenant solution, or a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). This effectively means that each client on the latest version of the software will be supported with the same
         software and hardware. This is great for keeping costs down and streamlining development and support, though it may not be workable for a sophisticated online merchant or marketer who may require more customizability of the features and tools over time [CORRECTION dd 3/12/09: MarketLive is not actually moving to a true SaaS multi-tenant software architecture, but is sharing hardware environments between clients.]
  • Improved fail-over, redundancy, and performance monitoring, which may lead to some of the most aggressive SLA's in the industry
  • Bundled Akamai content delivery services (edge-cache)
  • Integrated PCI and security compliance
  • Improved and standardized web-services integration capability (in addition to batch processes for clients not yet ready for more active integrations)

 

But among the more notable and interesting developments
MarketLive announced this week are:

  • Introduction of add-on “Subscription Business Solutions” which will include web-analytics services (leveraging Omniture or Google Analytics but with some much needed skilled interpretation),
         a/b-testing and site optimization consulting services, and online marketing services
  • Announcement of a monitored community of developers on the MarketLive platform to share learning, innovations, and best-practices. MarketLive plans to seed this with their own work,
         continue to monitor what is shared, and encourage customer participation.

 

Great, but what does
it mean?

 

In my work with retailers and other companies leveraging B2C
eCommerce platforms SaaS and hosted / managed[1]
solutions represent what I call a “distinction without a difference”. If a
retailer is open to an “outsourced” model they are most concerned with whether
the solution will perform and meet their ongoing business and customer
experience needs, they don’t really care if it is SaaS or hosted/managed. This
evolution to a true SaaS offering will be meaningful to MarketLive’s competitors
and a few of their more technically oriented customers and prospects, but it
will most effect how the solution is supported by MarketLive – with the goal
that it will reduce costs and improve performance.

 

With this solution MarketLive has clarified that they are
focused on the Mid-Market online retailer, or the online retailer doing roughly
$10-50 million in online sales. Their ideal client needs to be serious about direct-to-consumer
eCommerce, and willing to drive the solution with a focused supporting cast of
online merchants, marketers, creatives, and operations staff - but not
requiring advanced web-analysts, core application development talent, hosting, or
advanced online marketing practitioners.

 

As for the community aspect, look for other eCommerce
platform and solutions providers to also work on development of user and
developer communities. Many in the industry see the value in this – on both the
vendor and client side of the aisle – and this is an important differentiator
of open-source offering which needs to be mitigated. We will be discussing this
trend in upcoming research. Of course the health of a community is dependent on
an active and engaged customer base, and their willingness to share amongst
themselves. It will be interesting to watch the progress of this initiative.

 

MarketLive has been in many ways reinvigorated, and while
not profitable all indications are that if they execute well - and their
customers execute well - they may be in the near future. Their management team is
very focused on client success and they have clarified who their “client” really
is - and their role in delivering eCommerce capabilities. The market for
eCommerce solutions is relatively healthy today, despite the down-turn – or ”Great
Recession”, or term du-jour[2]  - so now is a critical time for MarketLive to
solidify their role as an important platform for the mid-market online
retailer.

 

Thanks, and as always, looking forward to your comments,

Brian

 


[1] By
hosted/managed we are talking about stand-alone applications where each client
of a vendor or solution-provider has a separate software and hardware
architecture, even if the underlying code is very similar. This is the model
MarketLive carried out prior to this latest release.